After conviction, Sen. Stevens faces his biggest political fight
The Alaska Republican faces an uphill battle to win a seventh full term.
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Other political adversaries expressed sadness at Stevens’s conviction. “For many, it is as if the elves at the North Pole just learned that Santa was convicted on seven felony counts of reindeer abuse and selling unsafe toys,” the left-leaning Alaska political blog Mudflats opined.Skip to next paragraph
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Stevens was convicted of concealing a variety of benefits, principally a home renovation, that he received from the former chief executive of VECO Corp., a now-defunct oil-services company that was once the biggest such business in the state. Former VECO CEO Bill Allen and a former VECO vice president have already pleaded guilty to bribing several Alaska politicians and have admitted in court to giving illegal benefits to Stevens and his son Ben, a former state Senate president. Federal prosecutors claimed the elder Stevens received more than $250,000 in unreported gifts.
Despite the trial, Stevens – who helped campaign for Alaska statehood in the 1950s – retains the backing of many. His enduring support stems from the fact that through the decades he has secured billions of dollars in federal funds considered vital to Alaska, earning him the nickname “Uncle Ted.” He is considered such a giant figure that in 2000 he was named “Alaskan of the Century” by the Alaskan of the Year Committee.
In the hours after the verdict, calls poured in to local talk-radio shows from Alaskans vowing to cast their ballots for Stevens in appreciation for his long service. Among the pro-Stevens callers dialing up conservative radio host Dan Fagan was Gail Phillips, a former speaker of the Alaska House of Representatives. “There’s a real family connection here. People put up with family members that maybe do things out of the ordinary sometimes,” Ms. Phillips, a Republican, told Mr. Fagan.
At the somber Stevens campaign headquarters in a midtown Anchorage strip mall, other loyalists streamed in to show support.
“I just thought that I’d show a little bit more today,” says Roy Rank, who drove in from Wasilla to drop off a check to Stevens’s campaign and pick up some yard signs. He says he doubts the verdict will change votes. “People have pretty much made up their minds already,” he says.
Should Stevens pull an upset, his career is not necessarily doomed. The last time the US Senate expelled a sitting member was 1862 when Sen. Jesse Bright (D) of Indiana was forced out for supporting the Confederacy. Several senators charged with corruption and facing an expulsion vote have resigned, most recently Sen. Bob Packwood (R) of Oregon in 1995. But at least 10 were able to hold onto their seats, notably Sen. Burton Wheeler (D) of Montana, who went on to become a powerful legislator in the 1920s.